Baghdad bombings show Al Qaeda in Iraq still intent on sectarian violence
Although Iraqi and US officials say they've severely damaged Al Qaeda in Iraq, a series of new Baghdad bombings reveals the organization may be weaker but is still trying to spark tension between Sunnis and Shiites.
Coordinated attacks near the main office of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and a series of explosions at Shiite mosques during Friday prayers killed more than 50 people and wounded almost 200. These were the worst attacks in Iraq since elections in early March.Skip to next paragraph
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Iraqi officials attributed these bombings and several others against law enforcement officials in Ramadi to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) striking back after a series of arrests of AQI members and the killings of top leaders. While Iraqi and US officials say dismantling AQI's network has severely weakened the organization, the bombings appear to be a sign that the group is still intent on and capable of sectarian attacks.
Iraqi security officials took the unusual step of announcing the death toll. In a statement run on Iraqiya television, the spokesman for the Baghdad Operational Command said 54 people had been killed and 180 injured in the attacks in Baghdad. At least another six people were killed and 12 wounded by bombings in Anbar Province, an Al Qaeda in Iraq stronghold.
Sadr City targeted
A Sadr official said three of the bombs exploded near the organization’s main office in Sadr City in East Baghdad at about 12:30 p.m. just as worshipers were attending Friday prayers.
The Iraqi Army sealed off roads to the area while wounded people were evacuated and the bodies of the dead were removed. The main hospital near Sadr City made an urgent appeal for all hospital staff to report to work and for Baghdad residents to give blood.
Sadr official Ni’mea Abu Zahra said the first bomb was a booby-trapped motorcycle parked across the street from the Sadr office; the second, a car bomb on a side street 500 feet away; and the third, a car battery filled with explosives.
"Most of those killed or injured had come for prayers," he said. He added that there were no senior Sadr officials killed in the blast. Moqtada al-Sadr himself, whose forces fought US troops in the streets in 2004, has been in Iran for more than a year completing his religious studies.